Organize or bust

March 13, 2012

I love to be organized.

Place that delicious quality next to a gooey, mountainous piece of chocolate cake and it’s a toss-up as to which I would lunge for first.

To-do lists scrawled in hurried pencil marks, a dry-erase board filled with random words translated into not-to-be-forgotten tasks, open magazines dog-eared with articles of interesting tidbits that I vow to read and then tuck into my brain meant for a later date.

I’ve always fantasized about being that girl at the dinner party who can break the silence with a “if the amount of glass bottles that Americans fail to recycle per year were placed from end to end around the globe, they would circle the earth 80 times” fact.

That must be why I became a reporter long before I realized where I was actually going in my career. I had been unknowingly investigating for years. My endless questions to piece together a story—to understand why this person did that and what time he arrived to lunch and where he was before. Basically, it allows me to be nosy and not worry about the bluntness of my oblivious cross-examinations.

My level of organization has become, through the years, a means of pride and a gauge of my self-worth. I don’t want to brag, but I’m somewhat known for it. If I come running into work with my shirt untucked and hair askew, they check my temperature. If I’m late for an appointment with a friend, she tells me to sit down, I don’t look well. Those side effects I can deal with. I take them as compliments.

What stings me to the core, however, is the cinching knots that start in my stomach and rise up into my throat as I sit in traffic, knowing that someone is waiting on me.

Forget the fact that the other person may be late as well or that she might welcome a moment of solitude or that her day hasn’t been incremented so tightly so as to only allot for a 30-minute discussion before she has to move on.

Just me then?

But, striving to find the positive, I think that, my obvious obsession with perfection aside, is that I view my and others’ time as valuable. Unforeseen events happen, but every minute I’m late is a minute I show you that you’re not that important to me.

Too extreme? Maybe a little. I think I read an article about that.


Girls deal with a lot.

We have babies; we cook; we clean; we raise families; we put up with leering men; and we wake up every morning to stand in front of a mirror to become beautiful (It doesn’t just happen, you know.).

We also get to deal with the constant barrage of stereotypes.

Bad driver? Must be a woman putting on her mascara.

Angry customer? Can’t be anyone but a hormonal female at her time of the month.

Weepy friend? Surely a college girl crying over her one night stand.

Men may have mastered the ability to mask emotion, but they deal with them behind closed doors, you better believe it.

I’m slightly ashamed to say that many times I’ve reveled in hearing a boy mourn over a lost love or why a girl hasn’t called him.

Finally! Victory for mistreated, underappreciated women everywhere. We are not alone!

Daily, I watch the hormonal changes of the men in my home. Wondering, did everyone’s cycle hit at the same time this month?

Boys would rather die than cop to this truth. It’s an underground fact that everyone recognizes, yet will not speak about.

We may wish it were true; we close our eyes, hoping for a miracle, but men aren’t superheroes. They are emotional beings fighting with self-doubt and disappointments on a daily basis, like the other sex.

Sure, men are touted as level-headed, unemotional, steady and strong he-men. And, everyone knows, they sure want to be.

Women are pictured, no matter how often we show otherwise, as listless and fragile, who follow the whim of any strong character who glances in her direction.

Try as we might, the stereotype remains.




Powers of Observation

November 6, 2011

The next time I go into a crowded coffee shop, I plan to splash some water on the floor, fall on my face, and lie there, counting the hours until someone speaks to me.
And while I’m lying there, I will ponder life’s great obstacles.
Life’s hard. I get it.
Many days, there are absolutely no reasons to smile. Yeah, I’m aware.
But why does that give anyone the license to ignore, body check, and reveal total unconsciousness when a fellow human being is talking?
I used to avoid children. I could tolerate them for about an hour—tops—but after that, get me out of there. I never liked the pressure that I felt from them to be entertaining. Kids just want adults to play games and make them laugh.
I can’t take the expectations. I’m not that kind of girl!
But my stance is changing as my adult interactions increase with the passing years.
Children possess a love of life and innocence that pretty much disappears by age 16, and, for most, it does not return.
And that’s not surprising. As we age, we deal with health problems, economic pressures, and failed relationships; disillusionment with life replaces our starry-eyed youthful hopes.
Even if we manage to maintain a level of sunny-ness into adulthood, it is constantly under attack by everyone who resides permanently under a dark, thunder-y raincloud.
It’s a wonder the whole world hasn’t already imploded.
Maybe that’s because we have not bothered to notice that everyone else is as miserable as we are.
I think Gaga has it right. She has obviously cracked the secret code that dressing loudly brings the same effect as yelling, but with more respect. Her outfits mirror childlike tantrums in department stores. Try as you might, ignoring is not an option.
I am still working on attaining the level of personal esteem it requires to don a meat dress or a bubble bodysuit.
So, until I do, Grumpy Man hovering in front of the napkin dispenser, oblivious to the 20 people with spilled coffee desirous of a linen, and Entitled 10-year-old Cheerleader in booty shorts and Uggs in desperate need of a healthy parental figure, I know you know I’m here. But until you gain the maturity to acknowledge me, I will continue my personal pep talks. And remind myself that with my powers of intuitiveness comes increased knowledge of human failings.
Just call me Observergirl.
I’ll work on the name.

Fear and other ramblings

November 3, 2011

The helmet pressed down on my head, feeling as cold as my insides. My fingers fumbled with the harness’ unfamiliar latches.
I’ve put on a harness before, I grumbled self-consciously—my eyes darting back and forth at my daredevil group members, expecting to be the last one to decipher the tangle of straps that dangle from my body.
I listen as couples on both sides of me excitedly chatter about the upcoming thrill and discuss the rest of their day, their children and other small nuances of their lives that only the other person shares.
And I desperately wish that I weren’t alone.
Longing for companionship is not something I’m used to feeling. Aloneness allows me to carry on a quiet, subdued, and orderly existence, yet, exciting when I choose it to be.
No listening to and nodding in sympathy at the empty conversations about shopping, dead-end jobs and small talk. Never having to put up with another person’s indistinguishable moods or wondering if he/she is having a good time.
Being alone, I’ve always felt, is far less exhausting.
But the reason for this, I have discovered, is because that premise is based on the assumption that I would be accompanied by people I don’t want to be with. Of course I am unconcerned with the woman in the grocery aisle complaining about the bad pedicure she received last week, and of course I roll my eyes when I hear two girls talking about their recent one-night stands. I don’t know them, and, frankly, the last thing I want to hear about is their stereotypical and oh-so-unimportant problems.
But, when it comes to someone I love, those feelings change. And suddenly, I’m interested.
Oh, if only I could be back in the 17th century with Jane Austen. She would know how I feel.
After all, she created Elizabeth, from Pride & Prejudice, who lamented, There are only a few people I care for and a far less of whom I actually respect.
Finding those special individuals is my constant quest.
So far, that group includes my small family and handful of friends—that handful being about the size of a toddler’s.
Such as my ever-supportive best friend who is getting married. And my selfless childhood friend halfway across the country who longs for a child.
My thoughts jolt abruptly to the slam of the door in the open-back jeep and the exhaust fumes settling in my nose complimented by a hint of evergreen. Leaves rain down in heavy bursts as I hobble from the vehicle under the weight of my life-saving gear, urging my flip-flopping stomach to calm itself.
I have done things far scarier than this. This is nothin’, I repeat silently.
But as I stare below, while being hoisted onto a barely-distinguishable wire, I shut my eyes and urgently search within myself for serenity.
I breathe in the rustic wood and fresh fall breeze that chills my nose and throat, and I jump.

I won’t forget

October 12, 2011

I took for granted your paws clattering across the wood floor. Your wet nose pressed against the window pane and your eyes furtively darting for a glimpse of your family.
Knowing that when I cried, the first one to kindly nudge me would be you; the first to sit with me in sympathy would always be you, saying in the silence that you would be there.
I won’t forget that.
But now you’ve left me.
I know you didn’t want to go.
And even as the end came nearer and nearer, your loyalty never wavered. Your breaths grew staggered, your eyes grew dim, but there you lay, ever aware of your family. And in the final moments, I knew that you were content. Your masters were there; there was nothing more you could want.
How does it feel to lose my best friend?–to listen expectantly for your soft breathing, your barks of protection, your loving whimpers when your masters were near.
Words fail me.
Instead, I’m left with silence. And my thoughts.
Thoughts that meld into memories that right now only bring sorrow. But will one day hold joy and love.
A love so true that it warms my heart, and takes me back to that time. A love so deep that I know it was real.
I won’t forget that.
Humans can love, but I believe that animals love deeper.
Some call it instinct, as if to devalue it.
But at the end of the day, your love was always waiting for me when I came home and pulling at my pant leg when I left in the morning. Your stubby tail wagging so fiercely that your whole back side had no choice but to follow.
I won’t forget that.
In the end, I think I will miss the quiet moments the most. When all three of your masters were together, you lying contentedly in between us, serene and confident that nothing could possibly be better than that moment.
And nothing will be.

I shudder to imagine what it must be like to be constantly called on to entertain.
Football players are not known for their humor. And yet, they are regularly expected to strut entertaining touchdown routines.
I hope to someday ask a football player what goes through his mind as he leaps for the ball and feels it fall into his hands, knowing that when his feet touch the ground he will be called on to perform.
Is he sweating bullets as I would be, his mind racing well before his feet meet the ground– all eyes on him, waiting for his big celebratory moment?
I would rather make out with Jonah Hill. The old Jonah Hill.
Never mind the game-winning throw that determines the championship or the pivotal tackle of the other team’s quarterback.
Nah. Those minor details fall very short compared to 20,000 eyes waiting for me to be funny.
Actors know what I’m talking about.
They may be asked to carry a billion-dollar-budget film, but on awards night all that matters is their speech.
No pressure.
I loved Ross on Friends. I’m sure he’s just the same in real life.
These actors stand before us, and how many times do we conclude that we like their character much better than the real them?
And what about those fun little contests that we ordinary people get to participate in at state fairs and festivals where we judge the hottest bods or the knobbiest knees?
I only sat down to eat my turkey leg. And now I have to do what?
I recently got my first taste of public humiliation since high school in this setting. The chatty announcer chose me to stand before the crowd, blindfolded and all.
I felt my shirt instantly wilt under the weight of my sweat. My face turned a nauseous beet-colored shade of crimson. All I could think about was what would they ask me to do and who could I push down to distract them from my escape.
I am not a typical kind of funny. Everyone who knows me knows this.
I don’t sit at the dinner table and broadcast gut-wrenchingly-funny anecdotes about my day or my awkward teenager years.
I think it’s the pressure of the moment that makes me clam up. Or maybe I was simply not endowed with story-telling capabilities.
I prefer, however, to conclude that it’s my audience. I personally find myself hilarious.
And when I tell my mother about something funny that happened to me, she laughs so hard milk comes out her nose.
She also finds humor in a clean knock-knock joke.
I see no reason to question her humor radar.

School Blues or Blessings?

August 11, 2011

There is something very lazy and carefree that comes with the summertime.
The warm days, suntanned skin, watermelon, tank tops. They soothingly whisper, Take a deep breath. Move a little slower. Drink in the sunshine. Put on your wide-brimmed straw hat and spread out under the sun. Work can wait. Another thing these months bring is the inundation of everything youthful. Those peaceful, beautiful hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. when children were safely inside their classrooms become only a dream. Like the days when a gallon of gas cost 99 cents.
For those three months, we listen to the bass of their rap music as we drive to the post office, sidestep their hurtling vehicles in the gas station parking lot, feign oblivion of the dressing room tantrums.
These are sacrifices that must be made in exchange for the wind in our hair, the warm summer air and the smell of suntan lotion.
We remind ourselves that soon enough, the tykes will return to their academic pursuits and pep rallies for another year.
And then will come the sweet reprieve of fall and child-less shopping.
It takes me back to my school days. I find it amazing how time has flown since my high school graduation. But those years leading up to graduation couldn’t have crept by any slower.
I remember walking to my first hour history class in seventh grade and thinking, I still have five years to go.
I seriously considered dropping out in eleventh grade. Not because I was rebellious or unwilling to learn. But because my time felt too valuable to waste.
I’m probably one of the only kids who ever begged her parents to let her home school.
I enviously eavesdropped as home schoolers talked about their 4-hour school days and various extracurricular activities. None of which involved sitting through a wrestling match for the last two hours of the school day or watching cheerleaders lead cheers about how our football team was number one.
Our football team was not number one, by the way. Obviously, no one wanted to admit that.
No, when it comes to most social activities, I find that I must be forced.
This was even true academically at times.
I must have been in a very overachieving mood the day I selected my senior year classes. I picked three Advanced Placement classes—English, Economics and Math. By the time the school year rolled around and I had to actually follow through on my decision, my self-confidence and willingness to exert myself had left me entirely.
I remember sitting in the counselor’s office begging to be moved to less-intensive courses.
He took one look at my above-average grades, and said, “No.”
I hyperventilated that evening to my parents, and they just looked at me and chalked it up to female hormones as they ate dinner.
I realized that I had dug my grave.
The girl I was six months ago was the one who pushed me then.
It was my parents who pushed me all through school to remain in public education.
“It will teach you endurance and make you stronger,” they said. “We all have to put up with situations that we don’t like sometimes.”
Well, they were right. As much as I wouldn’t admit it for a long time after.
So, I say–return little ones back to your lockers, pop quizzes and textbooks.
It will only improve your characters.
And give the rest of us time to rest.

Inner Questions Answered

August 3, 2011

There are times that I go an entire day without speaking to another human.
Not counting myself.
The inner dialoagues in my head are constant.
And that’s okay, I repeat to myself, as I leap over sidewalk cracks and count the number of lightposts between the grocery store and my front door.
When it becomes problematic is when my mouth gives voice to those inner conversations and suddenly I’ve gone from ‘mysterious, intellectual girl with a book’ at the coffee shop to ‘scary weirdo who is arguing with the table.’
I guess I shouldn’t wonder why I can’t ever find a dinner date.
So, while I may endeavor to temper my soul-searching discussions until I get home–for the sake of those around me–I refuse to believe there is anything substantially wrong with me.
I’ve often heard that talking to oneself is a sign of higher intelligence.
I choose to prescribe to that line of reasoning.
While I always excelled at school, I was never the top student, of course; geniuses hardly even make it through high school.
I made sure never to show up early to class or receive the top grade in my honors class or finish my summer reading assignments before June. I went above and beyond but not too far beyond. I revealed a capacity to learn as a genius should.
But also an uncanny ability to rebuff social rituals. As a genius also should. No one ever saw Einstein with a friend. Just his crazy hair and chalkboard.
I’m still waiting for my genius to be confirmed.
And when they finally are, I can’t say I will be overly surprised.
In all truthfulness, I will only sigh with relief and think Finally, the proof I’ve been waiting for.

For someone currently learning how to navigate through the harrowing halls of a relationship and the heartbreak, I am amazed at the skill of which this secret world has been kept hidden from me.
Like Santa Claus.
Or the effects of smoking in the age of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
I can imagine that when children learn the truth about the big man in the chimney, some of them must think, ‘Nicely played. I would have never guessed.’ While others might smugly retort, ‘I knew all along. A fat guy coming down a chimney… Riiiight.’
It’s true that children are becoming increasingly too smart for their own good. To the point of annoying. It’s only a matter of time until a car cuts me off on the road and, as I turn to gaze at the wrongdoer, there will sit a nine year old with a box of chocolate milk, arguing about the political ills of Washington.
There’s plenty of other worldly goings-on that are veiled today. Many youngsters grow up oblivious to the struggles that life will soon bring them: The anxiety of supporting themselves. The stresses of marriage. The turbulances of child rearing. The agony of burying a parent.
And though life can be so utterly disappointing at times most humans insist on pushing forward. Those are the people to watch. The ones who accept their childhoods, their heritage, their mistakes, and events that are just simply out of their control.
But love–that is something that is, for a fact, in our control. People say we can’t decide who we fall in love with. But I disagree.
It’s true, we may feel a draw to the guy at work who shares our interests and has a good sense of humor. But add to those qualities the fact that he is married with a kid on the way and any feelings of love (hopefully) drift away into impossibility.
As free moral agents, we are able to act on our feelings or push them away if they are unreasonable or unrealistic.
Or perhaps circumstances cause feelings to arise.
We have all heard the stories of arranged marriages where the couple grew to love one another. They saw each others’ good qualities and, add to that the closeness of everyday life, in time, they came to love one another.
Still others allow themselves to fall in love within reason, keeping their heads intact to recognize inevitable pitfalls of the relationship.
And some fall in too deep too quickly to recognize their error or to anticipate the future path of the relationship.
But whether the relationship crumbles after five years, five weeks or five days, or lives on until death, the heart isn’t quick to let go.
And this is the light I have finally seen.
I now understand the endless songs about lost loves and heart-wrenching anguish over untold feelings. And that more people deal with these problems than I realize.
I have spent more days in this past month walking around in an ambivalent, teary-eyed haze due to an ended relationship than I have in the past year.
Break ups may not get any easier each time but the experience of getting through each one adds a lifetime of wisdom.
Or so they say.

I’ve always been puzzled at my random, very selective ability of observation. My mother places a beautiful African Violet by our front door and a year later, I comment on its sudden appearance.
Some people can recite what an individual was wearing two weeks ago at the grocery store, down to her fingernail polish. I’m lucky if I remember what color hair she had.
But put me in the driver’s seat on the highway and you’ll be lucky if you can get your quiet cough in the backseat past me.
My eyes and ears somehow seem to go on high alert when I have a gas pedal underneath me. Or maybe it has more to do with the idea of going somewhere.
So that’s why it’s all the more puzzling when I watch people speed up to the tail of a slow-moving truck, next to a long line of fast-moving cars and then toss on their blinker. As if to say Alright, I did my part. Now it’s your turn, fast lane cars. Like getting out from behind the slow truck that they chose to get behind is their inalienable right.
It’s like I’m suddenly back in seventh grade, and I have to help the foreign girl understand the teacher’s slide presentation.
How is this my problem?
Didn’t you foresee this issue? How is it that I am obligated to provide the solution?
And why is it that I am labeled the bad guy when I refuse the bait?
Like I don’t see what’s really going on here.
You took the easy way out. You sped past the long line of traffic and expected a good samaritan. Well, buddy, you may realize that you will always find a good samaritan.
It just may not be me this time.